LAWRENCEVILLE - The runaway bride is on the move again after splitting with her one-time fiance.
Reports surfaced Friday on People Magazine's Web site that Jennifer Wilbanks and John Mason broke up earlier this month, a year after the jilted fiance accepted Wilbanks back with open arms. There was no definitive word on who initiated the breakup, or why, but some said it was Mason who called it quits this time.
Even close friends of Mason were stunned at the news.
"We're just as surprised as you are," said Kris King, whose husband is a regular Bible study partner with Mason. "We're frankly thrilled, but I don't know what happened."
King said Mason disconnected his cell phone number within the past few days and they have been unable to reach him.
"We're just waiting for him to call," she said.
Meanwhile, Wilbanks has reportedly secured a job as a receptionist in a medical office in Atlanta in recent months. Prior to that, she had been unemployed since losing her job as a medical assistant at Heritage OB-GYN in Gainesville following her abrupt cross-country voyage.
Wilbanks told her fiance she was going for a jog on April 26, 2005, and then disappeared. Search parties came up empty handed after scouring a five-mile area around her home for three days.
Police later learned the bride-to-be had traveled by bus to Las Vegas, then Albuquerque, N.M., before calling her fiance collect from a pay phone in the predawn hours of April 30 - what would have been her wedding day. Wilbanks told authorities she cracked under the pressure of planning a wedding for 600 people.
Whatever the couple's troubles, finances were probably not an issue after Wilbanks' return. The fleet-footed bride secured a reported $500,000 by selling her story to ReganMedia. Friends said Mason even sold his bungalow in downtown Duluth about six months ago, moving with Jennifer to a larger, newer home in Hamilton Mill, an affluent neighborhood in Buford.
Over the past year Mason remained fiercely loyal to his fickle fiance and announced he still planned to marry her shortly after she came home, despite criticism from family and friends. They have been attending couples counseling and appeared to be doing well up until last month, King said.
Reached at her new place of employment, Wilbanks, 33, told People magazine on May 14: "I'm not confirming or denying the breakup. John and I have some things to work out."
Mason's father, Claude Mason, a Duluth attorney, told People he was "just glad there's a final resolution."
A receptionist at Claude Mason's office on Friday said, "He's going to have no comment and he probably won't call you back."
John Mason also did not accept calls Friday at John Mason Primary Care in Duluth, where he is managing partner.
Regardless of whether Wilbanks ever ties the knot with Mason, she still has some loose ends to tie up with the state.
Wilbanks finished 120 hours of community service in September, but she remains on probation through June 2, 2007, for pleading no contest to one felony count of making false statements in Gwinnett County Superior Court, said Peggy Chapman, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Corrections.
Wilbanks is still forking over a $32 probation supervision fee and $100 in restitution each month to the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department to repay $2,550 spent helping the city of Duluth in the three-day search for her.